The cold of Peru’s highlands is like a living presence. It plays important roles in life in the highlands. Our ancestors used it like a natural refrigerator to preserve food in large quantities. Products such as potatoes, corn, and meat were transformed by the cold to last for a long time and help sustain life. However there are also healing plants that come from the cold lands.
One of the many plants that germinate in the Andean cold is the muña (móon-yah) It stands out because even in the sharp cold of the dry season it maintains its green color. It has a mint like aroma that enchants passersby who often grab a few leaves to sniff because of how the scent invigorates them and helps them continue their path.
Muña, known in Latin as minthostachys mollis, grows throughout the highlands near Cuzco, Ayacocho and Puno. It can grow up to a meter high and has a bright green color and a delicious scent that is reminiscent of mint, which is a a distant relative.
Some of our brothers from various communities near Cuzco gather plants like muña and bring them to market. There they sit and offer them in small piles of combined herbs. These are called asnapa and often include parsley, cilantro, huacatay (black mint), and some muña. Depending on the size, these are sold for fifty cents or one sol (between twenty and forty US cents).
In Cuzco’s cuisine this plant is widely used in traditional foods as a condiment such as with tarwi, the widely consumed Andean lupine. Muña is also widely used ito make herb tea which can help your digestion particularly after eating a heavy meal.
Furthermore, muña is a plant that has medicinal properties. It is a good digestive, people say. Just like yerba buena (a mint) or coca tea it has many properties for calming cholic and for stomach cleansing.
Since the plant has a lot of calcium people say it is also good for arthritis and helps your bones and teeth to be harder and feel more comfortable.
Though the plant is very widely consumed in Peru for its flavor and its medicinal effects, the Peruvian Institute of Health counsels people use it in moderation.